Bishops to push for inquiry into Iraq prisoner abuse - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
July 1, 2004

Bishops to push for inquiry into Iraq prisoner abuse

-1/7/04

Bishops of the Church of England are expected to push for a US inquiry into the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American troops and to demand that those responsible are held accountable reports the Times newspaper.

The news follows a letter to Tony Blair from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which rebuked the Prime Minister over the behaviour of Western Security forces in Iraq.

It also comes as a rival newspaper to the Times, the Daily Telegraph, launched an attack on the Archbishops for their 'epistle" to the Prime Minister, in an editorial today. The attack suggests that the letter was badly timed.

The Times, which got exclusive coverage of the leaked letter, says today that normally, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would raise concerns about such matters in his regular meetings with Tony Blair. But such was the ìhorrorî felt by the 114 Church of England bishops and representatives from other Anglican provinces at the recent bishopsí meeting in Liverpool that they took the unprecedented step of pressing Dr Williams and David Hope, the Archbishop of York, to write to the Prime Minister to coincide with the transfer of power in Iraq.

In the letter the archbishops accused Mr Blair of ìdouble standardsî and gave warning that the credibility of his Government was at risk over the treatment of Iraqi detainees. The archbishops also linked the Iraq conflict with trouble in Israel, giving warning that the British Governmentís reputation as ìhonest brokersî must not be jeopardised.

There was some unease that the strong pro-Palestinian position of the letter could damage Jewish-Christian relations, but no bishop was prepared to dissent publicly.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, co-chairman of the Interfaith Network of Britain and Ireland, said that although at the start of the war there was a variety of opinions among the bishops, they were now united in their demands.

Bishop Butler said: ìThe bishops were not looking for a confrontation. It is that our hearts had a great burden on them. There was moral revulsion at what was done to those Iraqi prisoners and we were ashamed. We were right to be ashamed. There is unfinished business that has to be finished if Britain is to regain its moral authority.

ìWe want a transparent investigation by the Americans into how it could have happened and we want those responsible to be brought to book. Unless this is tackled, it will continue to undermine Britainís moral authority, particularly in the Middle East.î

Bishop Butler said parishioners had been lobbying the bishops, asking why they were not saying more about something so important in the countryís life.

ìThere was also a real revulsion when we saw those pictures of Iraqi prisoners,î he said. ìWe felt we really must express our sense of moral revulsion and horror.î

Revelations of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners were made by several groups including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, as long ago as January.

Bishops to push for inquiry into Iraq prisoner abuse

-1/7/04

Bishops of the Church of England are expected to push for a US inquiry into the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American troops and to demand that those responsible are held accountable reports the Times newspaper.

The news follows a letter to Tony Blair from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which rebuked the Prime Minister over the behaviour of Western Security forces in Iraq.

It also comes as a rival newspaper to the Times, the Daily Telegraph, launched an attack on the Archbishops for their 'epistle" to the Prime Minister, in an editorial today. The attack suggests that the letter was badly timed.

The Times, which got exclusive coverage of the leaked letter, says today that normally, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would raise concerns about such matters in his regular meetings with Tony Blair. But such was the ìhorrorî felt by the 114 Church of England bishops and representatives from other Anglican provinces at the recent bishopsí meeting in Liverpool that they took the unprecedented step of pressing Dr Williams and David Hope, the Archbishop of York, to write to the Prime Minister to coincide with the transfer of power in Iraq.

In the letter the archbishops accused Mr Blair of ìdouble standardsî and gave warning that the credibility of his Government was at risk over the treatment of Iraqi detainees. The archbishops also linked the Iraq conflict with trouble in Israel, giving warning that the British Governmentís reputation as ìhonest brokersî must not be jeopardised.

There was some unease that the strong pro-Palestinian position of the letter could damage Jewish-Christian relations, but no bishop was prepared to dissent publicly.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, co-chairman of the Interfaith Network of Britain and Ireland, said that although at the start of the war there was a variety of opinions among the bishops, they were now united in their demands.

Bishop Butler said: ìThe bishops were not looking for a confrontation. It is that our hearts had a great burden on them. There was moral revulsion at what was done to those Iraqi prisoners and we were ashamed. We were right to be ashamed. There is unfinished business that has to be finished if Britain is to regain its moral authority.

ìWe want a transparent investigation by the Americans into how it could have happened and we want those responsible to be brought to book. Unless this is tackled, it will continue to undermine Britainís moral authority, particularly in the Middle East.î

Bishop Butler said parishioners had been lobbying the bishops, asking why they were not saying more about something so important in the countryís life.

ìThere was also a real revulsion when we saw those pictures of Iraqi prisoners,î he said. ìWe felt we really must express our sense of moral revulsion and horror.î

Revelations of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners were made by several groups including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, as long ago as January.

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